• values;
  • valuation;
  • socioecological values;
  • water conflicts;
  • political ecology;
  • ecological economics


Water valuation represents both an opportunity and a challenge for interdisciplinary scholarly research, given that it can mobilize academic work beyond unnecessary cleavages between physical and social sciences. The article revisits the most common valuation approaches – namely, water as an economic resource, entangled in commodification strategies and embedded in cultural heritages – as important, but incomplete, considerations of the multitude of water values. While previous publications have dealt with the values held by different social groups and by the territorialized manifestation of water values, the limitations of prevailing valuation strategies are discussed here and a relational synthesis is proposed. As relevant as the examination of particular values (e.g. economic, non-economic, religious, cultural, aesthetic values, etc.) is the realization that the valuation of water is articulated according to socionatural interdependencies and the historic-geographical trajectories of individuals and groups. Water valuation is, therefore, premised on a relational, holistic ontology, in the sense that values are necessarily interrelated and emerge out of concrete, politicized socionatural interactions. Making use of relevant examples, it is argued that the valuation of water is ultimately a political statement that synthesizes mechanisms of cooperation and competition between individuals and social groups for the allocation, use and conservation of water. Such politicized understanding of the interconnections between water values provides a helpful entry point into the causes and consequences of water management problems. These are all profoundly geographical, but also interdisciplinary, questions, as water values reflect multiscale connections between local processes and wider relations of production, consumption and reproduction.